Drums in the Night

18 Apr

Again, another months’ long silence!

In my last post in January I mentioned some exciting news for 2015, well that exciting news was/is that I am back in the directing chair for Drums in the Night by Bertolt Brecht, performed by York Settlement Community Players who were also behind The Stepmother that I posted so much about.

A week today we will be getting ready to ‘get in’ at Friargate Theatre, where the play will be performed from 30th April – 2nd May.

In my whistle-stop tour of Brecht on my German course at university, I studied the play – Trommeln in der Nacht in German – and it is great to be able to revisit it now and to bring it to life with talented actors and a committed production team.

The play was written when Brecht was still in his early twenties, before his theories of Epic Theatre and Verfremdung, when he was a jobbing writer just wanting to make money! He chose the topical subject of the end of the First World War and the Spartacist Uprising – an uncertain time in Germany: many Berliners starving; soldiers returning with no homes to return to; an abdicated ruler etc etc- and placed a love-story in amongst this backdrop. All humanity is inside its 18 characters – good and bad, crude and innocent, funny and tragic. I think it’s great and I hope, if you come to see it, that you will too.

Emma Dubruel (Anna) and George Stagnell (Kragler). Credit Michael J Oakes (1)

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Goodbye 2014

17 Jan

Wow, so I haven’t updated this blog in ages, so I thought I would write a short post even just to jog my memory and remind me that I DID do theatre last year! Actually, it’ll be remembering it all and sorting it into vague dates that will be the hard bit!

My year in theatre 2014..

January- Auditioned for The Stepmother with YSCP and got the part of Lois Relph. This took up most of the first third of the year and was a brilliant experience. Also continued work with YTR Youth Theatre 16+.

February- See above!

March- See above!

April- The Stepmother at York Theatre Royal. So much love for this play and the people involved.

May- Entered my first Script Factor heat with my play Butter-side Up and won the round!

Butter side up John Saunders

June- In rehearsals for July…

July- A very busy month! It was the final of Script Factor at York Theatre Royal, and my play Going Up got the runner up place which I was really happy about.

Going Up - John Saunders

Then more acting with The Envelope Project and Richard Kay’s play Good Grief. Then there was The York Mystery Plays, acting as Annas in YSCP’s production Christ before Annas and Caiaphas – just about managing to escape the rain and eating many satsumas disdainfully in the process.

August- Assistant Directed on a YTR Play in a Week – Persephone, which was a really fun summer project. Also took Going Up to the Arts Barge Riverside Festival, although we’ll know to have microphones next time!

September- Took Butter-side Up to Leeds Corn Exchange as part of West Yorkshire Theatre Network’s NEXUS festival. It was a fantastic experience to take a little play of mine to an arts festival and get some good feedback – it was performed under my company Bird on Head. I also started assisting with the 8-11s at Youth Theatre.

October- In rehearsals for November…

November- Treading the boards again with York Shakespeare Project as the pretty sadistic Morgan in All’s Well That Ends Well. Some great people and a play in the round, which was really fun to do.

December- Co-writing and co-directing the school play for the Christmas concert! And also receiving some exciting news regarding 2015…

And some of the things I watched..

– The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (National Theatre in Cinemas)

– The Crucible (Old Vic)

– 1984 (Headlong)

– Bondagers (Lyceum Edinburgh)

– Where the White Stops (ANTLER)

– The Importance of Being Earnest (Theatre Mill)

– Fiddler on the Roof (Hull New)

– Les Miserables (Rowntree)

– Twelfth Night (YSP)

– A Number (YTR)

– Blithe Spirit (YTR)

– The Wind in the Willows (YTR)

– Betrayal (YTR)

– Mother Goose (YTR)

The Stepmother Blog 2: Props, Posing and Publicity

14 Feb

A quick update by way of photos. See my previous post for some more background to the production of The Stepmother, and the bottom of this post for ways to get more information…

Hunting around the York Theatre Royal costume hire, we found a very sweet case complete with a beautiful little photo of two women. I’ll probably be using this as my cigarette case (Lois is a 20 a day kinda gal), pretending that the two women are my stepdaughters. It’d be lovely to know the story behind the case and who these people were.

This is one of my costumes (without the 1920s hair), found at the West Yorkshire Playhouse costume hire. This will be Lois’ work outfit, as she is a business woman. The dress itself luckily fits very well and I love the feel of it – it’s so silky! I quite like the 1920s style. Most people will think of the ‘flapper’ style dresses, but as Lois is a married woman in her late 20s, something like this is probably more suitable! One of the things I loved about this dress is that the back looks like it is done up by hundreds of buttons which look fantastic, but luckily, and in the spirit of the quick-change, the fastenings are actually clasps which will help when I have to quickly get out of it into another ‘frock’!

Yesterday our director Maggie and some of the cast popped into Radio York to record an interview about the play – here’s Simon who plays Peter Holland and Catherine who plays Mary. Hopefully you’ll be able to listen in on Sunday 2nd March.

York Settlement Community Players present Githa Sowerby’s The Stepmother at York Theatre Royal 5th-15th March

More The Stepmother blogs can be found here

A preview can be read here

More information about the production and information on tickets can be found here

Follow YSCP on twitter and receive updates about the production here

The Stepmother Blog 1: Finding Lois’ feet.

18 Jan

From 5th-15th March I will be performing in Githa Sowerby’s The Stepmother with the York Settlement Community Players (YSCP). The play, which has largely been left unperformed since it was written in the early 20th century, follows a young girl (Lois), unexpectedly left a huge inheritance, and the older man (Eustace) who takes her in and marries her for her money. What happens next is a fascinating tale of betrayal and what happens when secrets bubble up to the surface.

For me, being cast as Lois is hugely exciting. Too often roles for young actresses in classic plays are classified by the character’s sex life – deemed either a bolshy whore or a simpering virgin. Sex does play a role in the play but it doesn’t define who Lois is. In fact, she is many things – a business woman, a mother, a wife, a lover – but first and foremost a woman trying to do what she thinks best in any given situation and trying to keep her head, and the heads of those she cares for, above water.

Some might therefore call Lois a ‘strong woman’, but I tend to dislike such a label on female characters seeing as it’s never applied to men. This would also force a blanket term on her and, in my opinion, she operates on so many different levels throughout the play and is certainly not always ‘strong’. When we first meet her, she is a vulnerable but sparky 19 year old girl and when we meet her again ten years later (and after the First World War), she has blossomed into a confident 29 year old woman (albeit not entirely worldly wise). This is my first challenge as an actor – to be able to play both ages convincingly. I think the fact that I fall pretty much slap bang in the middle of her two ages is an advantage, but I still have to convince the audience that time has passed! Luckily, I am helped so much by Sowerby’s text. Lois is written so beautifully on the page, and I cannot help but read the older Lois’ dialogue as more self-assured.

Rehearsals so far have been really interesting and we have had many organic discussions with Maggie, our director, about our characters and their relationships. Some of my favourite passages are Lois and Eustace’s many ‘discussions’, which get gradually more heated as their marriage becomes colder. It would be easy to play them all as shouting matches, but then you wouldn’t get the many sides of their characters and situation. Also, I’m not entirely sure the audience would warm to Lois’ personality as easily. The words I’ve noted down during these passages are, therefore, deliberately varied – Steely, matter-of-fact, honest, teasing, genuine, sneaky, harsh, direct, scared, practical, panicked, calm, uncomfortable, incredulous, guilty, angry, suspicious, sincere, frustrated… sometimes I think she is feeling all of these in just one short moment!

After my first reading of the text, I would have called Lois a ‘modern woman’, and I still think this is true to some extent. Even today there are discussions about whether women can have it all, juggling a career, a partner, children etc. Yet as we rehearse the play chronologically, there have been glimpses that she is still very much of her time and bound by morals and conventions that we may not completely recognise today.

I suppose I want an audience member to be enthusiastically cheering her on, yet at the same time wanting to give her a slap in the face. And then I will convince them to join me in singing this.

More The Stepmother blogs can be found here

A preview can be read here

More information about the production and information on tickets can be found here

Follow YSCP on twitter and receive updates about the production here

TakeOver and beyond…

18 Jan

2014. Wow. I’m a little bit behind with this blogging business aren’t I?!

TakeOver stuff…

I realise that the last time I blogged was around week two of three of TakeOver festival. The third week came and went in October, during which I ran a Play in a Day session for 10-14 year olds based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was, in the words of one of my wonderful actors, an “absolutely tutley awesome” day!

I am very grateful to have been involved in the whole process on a Senior Management level, and proud of what the whole team achieved. To have such a hands on experience in a professional theatre (York Theatre Royal) for over a year, including the three intensive weeks which we programmed and managed ourselves, was at times exhausting and frustrating, but at others extremely exciting and an invaluable insight into how a theatre works. Beyond that, I met lots of amazing people and saw some brilliant shows, most of which would never have come to York if it wasn’t for us. Some personal highlights include the irreverent Self Service by Milk Presents, Bitch Boxer written and performed by the multi-talented Charlotte Josephine and Titus Andronicus by the all-female Smooth Faced Gentlemen, who basically came on stage and defined why I want to do theatre.

I’m sure I will have more thoughts on TakeOver as the evaluation process still continues, but I felt a little blog post to round things off at this stage would do nicely. Also it’s kind of a way to make up for not being able to attend a discussion day today.

Non TakeOver stuff…

Towards the end of TakeOver I also completed my MA in Theatre: Writing, Directing and Performance, which I graduate from next week.

I also assisted for a short while on A Winter’s Tale by Common Ground, adapted and directed by two of my university tutors, which will be touring York and rural Yorkshire in the coming months. I’m looking forward to seeing how it has developed since I last saw it in its exciting early stages a few months ago.

I’ve also got more actively involved in the York Shakespeare Project, performing in their Measure for Measure in November, and becoming a committee member.

November also saw Twice Upon A Time performed in the York Theatre Royal studio by the 16+ Youth Theatre, on which I assistant directed. I love doing Youth Theatre, it never feels like work!

Finally, my first theatrical endeavour of 2014 will be taking the title role in Githa Sowerby’s The Stepmother, to be performed in March at York Theatre Royal which is hugely exciting! More about that in my next post…

TakeOver June Week

28 May

As predicted TakeOver week one was exciting, successful and very very busy – hence how and why the preview and review section of this blog got left by the wayside.. so sorry..

But here’s the exciting news: week 2 of TakeOver 2013 is coming to York Theatre Royal next week! Yes, NEXT WEEK – 4th-8th June.

So, here’s what we’ve got planned…

Running from Thursday until 15th June – The Mercy Seat : Neil LaBute’s play following the aftermath of a national tragedy and how it affects two lovers and their life choices, asking the question, what would you do if you had the chance to start over? A gripping and powerful two-hander drama, I really recommend this!

Tuesday – Out of the Blue: a-capella like you’ve never seen it before. Or maybe you have, seeing as they were on Britain’s Got Talent! If you book your ticket in person or on the phone, ask for a free workshop ticket and the boys will teach you one of their songs and dance routines which you can perform with them in the evening show!

Wednesday- The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs : ever thought of the legality and morality behind Apple? This is a one man show which is bound to be thought provoking and leave you with questions.

Thursday- The Trench : a production filled with live music, puppetry, film and stunning physical performances, The Trench is set in World War One. watch a trailer here.

Friday- Chapel Street and Bitch Boxer : a double bill of stunning new writing, so more drama for your money. Chapel Street and Bitch Boxer have been touring the country and receiving some great reviews. Chapel Street follows Kirsty and Joe during one night in London and Bitch Boxer follows Chloe as she trains as a female boxer – come along and see them both in one night, and for only £8 for students.

Saturday – Enormous Turnip and Comedy Night : Turnip is an inventive and charming retelling of the traditional children’s tale and for the adults, we have another comedy night, featuring not one, not two but five hilarious stand-ups who will have you rolling in the aisles!

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As ever, tweet us on @ytrtakeover13 like us on our facebook page visit the TakeOver website and book tickets at York Theatre Royal.

Hope to see you around next week!

TakeOver Blog 3 – Day One Review and Day Two Preview

19 Mar

Officially, TakeOver doesn’t really start until tomorrow but we did have our first event today so I thought I’d start a very quick review and preview set of blogs for this week! (who’s betting they won’t last!). Bear in mind this is my view of TakeOver as Associate Director but I will try and be as comprehensive as possible!

 

Review…

So Monday 18th March saw the TakeOver SMT gather for a briefing about the week ahead including exciting stuff about decorating the foyer and the launch night, we then went and met Clout Theatre, our first company to arrive and showed them up to their dressing rooms, and then later they ran a great workshop for us in the ballroom called ‘Dynamics of Movement’ which seemed very tiring but was loved by everyone who came! Highlight was three people pretending to be jelly complete with e-number smiles – you probably had to be there! Meanwhile Quicksand had their get-in and tech up at Bar Lane Studios and lots of technical things that I don’t understand were going on in the main house!

^ Clout’s workshop

 

Preview…

 

So tomorrow, Tuesday 18th March sees our official launch! We will be decorating front of house in the morning and then we’ll start greeting Clout Theatre and Factory Theatre in the afternoon ready for their shows, How A Man Crumbled (in the studio, 7.45) and The Odyssey (main house, 7.30) respectively. The launch will kick off around 6.30 with Ruby, our Artistic Director welcoming everyone at 7. Then we have our first two shows to enjoy! I will be watching The Odyssey which I’m sure will be fabulous, and there will be a talkback afterwards (I’m hosting it so you have to come!). Very exciting times! 

 

 

Remember for more info check out www.takeoverfestival.co.uk www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk @ytrtakeover13

TakeOver Festival Blog 2

28 Feb

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Ok, ok, I know. It is now February and my last TakeOver blog was.. well, a few months ago. So firstly, happy new year! And secondly, TakeOver week one starts in just over 2 weeks!!!!

I am very excited!

If I were to spend this post waffling on about what has happened between now and my last post it would be a very long one indeed. This post might materialise later. Suffice it to say, since my last post, we went on to programme the March and June festivals following feedback from the board. Ruby, the Artistic Director, and I made sure that everything was grouped into different genres and age-ranges so that there would be something for everyone. Then companies were approached and we worked out who was available and when and started fixing deals with them. I’ve also been working on making sure we have other things happening so have been in touch with companies about workshops and Q&A sessions. I’ve also been involved with more general Creative Engagement things such as workshops, careers events and soon, assemblies. I also got to be on an interview panel for our other TakeOver Creative Engagement roles. 

Lots and lots of other things have been going on in all the other departments. For example, brochures and flyers are now all over the York Theatre Royal foyer and the press and the wider community are being informed about the event. We are also in the process of deciding which company will win our Residency Award to develop and perform a piece that will premiere in our October week. And, as it is only two weeks until kick off, you can imagine there are a lot of other things to do!

 

So what can you come and see and do in our March week?  (We have events running from 18th March – 24th March). Well you can find out about everything we have to offer in all of these places: 

Websites: www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk and www.takeoverfestival.co.uk where you can sign up the the mailing list.

Twitter: follow @ytrtakeover13

Facebook: like TakeOverFestival 

Obviously as I helped choose the programme I am really excited about everything that is coming! But here are a few picks….

The Odyssey – this is being performed by Factory Theatre who are such an exciting company who like to do different and unusual things with classical texts. Every show is different and the actors really have to think on their feet. And on top of this, it’s just a brilliant, epic story!

Doug Segal – billed as a funny Derren Brown – how can you NOT be intrigued?!

How A Man Crumbled – this is going to be a really inventive physical theatre piece and they are also leading a workshop for 11-18 year olds.

Another workshop is brought to us by Milk Presents – DIY Queer Performance which will explore gender and sexuality in performance and is for aged 16+ – attend the workshop and then watch their cabaret style show, Self Service

Ruby will be directing Quicksand, a new political but funny play based on the Iraq war.

I have to say I am most excited for Dogs Don’t Do Ballet – who cares that it is most suitable for under 6s?! It features a dog in a tutu, I mean, what more do you want?! 

For more proof of that: 

Photo from Little Angel Theatre

Photo from Little Angel Theatre

I hope to see you at TakeOver13! You can buy tickets to March and June events online or at York Theatre Royal box office.

 

Review: Timon of Athens

9 Nov

Timon of Athens, National Theatre (I saw it with NT Live)

Nicholas Hytner’s revival of Timon of Athens couldn’t have come at a better time. It is a rather unloved Shakespeare play, rarely performed and probably rarely read. Thought to be a collaboration with Thomas Middleton, Timon has none of the familial or romantic relationships which endear us to other Shakespeare texts and it almost invariably has to be cut, rejigged and added to in order to make it more streamlined and coherent. Yet its themes of money, greed, credit and corruption, among others, make it fit, almost seamlessly, into a 21st Century context.

It is this idea that the National Theatre production has great fun with. Despite the references in the script to Athens, Tim Hatley’s design is a recognisable London, complete with sky scrapers, swanky bars and art galleries, gift bags labelled with ‘Fashion Week’ and even logos on visitor passes for ‘The Senate of Athens’ which seem to be taken straight out of the House of Commons. It is the small details, such as this, which highlight the care that has been taken to achieve the vision. Sometimes, updating Shakespeare to a modern setting can look cheesy and gimmicky, but this production, for the most part, avoids that. There were a few decisions that jarred with me. Timon finding blocks of gold was left in, rather than him finding wads of notes that he chooses not to spend but to give away to those who come grovelling. In a production that had taken great care in printing lookalike £50 notes for the earlier scenes, I found it strange that the rioters would scramble on the floor for gold discs that they couldn’t go out and immediately spend. Equally, though I appreciated the relevance of making the rebellious mob akin to the London rioters, the cutting of Alcibiades’ part in Act One meant that when he finally appeared in Act Two, it felt as if the ‘sub plot’ had been shoehorned in, something which the production tried to get around by occasionally making the rioters march around the stage during scene changes which got rather tiresome and a bit obvious. However, the Alcibiades plot is also rather awkward in the text itself and Hytner did what he could with it.

The majority of the acting was good, but I almost got the impression that you were meant to leave the theatre/cinema with an appreciation for the play and the staging than for the acting. Simon Russell Beale as Timon was impressive at showing the protagonist at the two ends of the spectrum of wealth. His Act Two Timon, shuffling around in his beanie hat and cast-off clothing, sifting through the rubbish bags for a cold takeaway to eat, was affecting. I also enjoyed Hilton McRae’s Apermantus, who captured his character’s misanthropy and droll wit effectively. However, some performances were more irritating and distracting. Deborah Findlay, as Flavia, for example, and Tom Robertson as Ventidius. Though I liked his Sid Vicious style characterisation at first, it increasingly looked as if he were overdoing the accent and playing for laughs.

Overall, though, an enjoyable and stylish revival of a relevant play. I found it hard to believe it was written in the 17th Century.

TakeOver13 Festival Blog 1

30 Sep

What TakeOver is and how I came to be involved with it

I’m so excited to have been appointed Associate Director for the next TakeOver Festival at the York Theatre Royal which will be happening over three weeks next March, July and the Autumn. The first TakeOver festival was in 2009 and was a massive experiment. Nothing had been seen like it before on that scale. Essentially what happens is that for two or more weeks, the regular staff of the theatre hand over the reigns to a bunch of under 25 year olds who take over the running of the theatre. For these few weeks they are in charge. Each new member of TakeOver staff is given a mentor – so for example the theatre’s Associate Director will be mine – to keep them on the right track and to teach them the ins and outs of their job.

I was involved with the first TakeOver because I was in Equus performed by the theatre’s Young Actors Company and through that I heard about the other exciting things going on and decided to help front of house and a bit in marketing. You can even see me on the TakeOver page on YTR’s website http://www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk/page/takeover.php – fun times! Since then, I’ve wanted to be involved on a larger scale, especially because I have since decided that I would really like to have a career in the industry, but I have always been away at uni.. until now! I was aware that there may be another TakeOver coming up so during the end of my degree I checked the website to see if the Senior Management roles were being advertised. Luckily for me, they were, and the dates were perfect to fit in with my masters in York!

The Senior Management team roles are: Artistic Director, Producer, Associate Director, Communications Manager, Production Manager and General Manager. I was torn between a couple of the roles but I soon decided that Associate Director would be the right one for me to apply for. It is essentially heading up Creative Engagement (basically work in and with the local community and Education) with directing and programming thrown in as well. As I am interested in directing as well as education and young people I thought it would be perfect and (during finals.. oops..) I sat down to fill in the application form.

Interview

Having set my heart on being involved somehow I was really excited to hear I’d got an interview soon after I had finished university and come back to York. I was interviewed by the Associate Director of YTR, Juliet, and two lovely members of the TakeOver board (more about them in a moment). The interview was relaxed but challenging enough to make me really think what I wanted to get out of TakeOver and what I could offer them. I enjoyed it but as with exams and auditions, I never can tell how interviews have really gone until I know the verdict! I was amazed and thrilled when I heard the next day that I was hired!

Next Steps

It was a while until I heard anything else because the other members of the team had to be recruited and many of their interviews couldn’t be conducted until after the mystery plays frenzy had died down because of their mentors being involved with it. I was invited to a Board Meeting late August but unfortunately I couldn’t make it. As the Senior Management team came together we were given each others details and began to introduce ourselves and on 19th September we had our first big TakeOver day. Only four of the six SMT could make it but it was still good to put faces to names! Firstly we each individually had meetings with our mentors. We discussed my job description and what it meant and I met the rest of the Creative Engagement staff (some of whom I already knew) in their office. Next it was time for a meet and greet with tea and biscuits and members of YTR staff and TakeOver staff followed by a tour of the YTR buildings (so fun to stand on the stage again!). Finally we got to meet the TakeOver Board. There are about 15 members of the board, all under the age of 25 and headed up by a Chair and two Vice Chairs. They help oversee what the SMT do and give us advice with programming ideas etc. It was such an exciting atmosphere with a lot of ages and different levels of experiences and interests around the table and there was some great cake! We talked about the mission for TakeOver and what sort of things would be happening in the near future.

Programming time!

Apparently for the first TakeOver week in March, we have to have chosen what shows and workshops we want to book pretty soon (as in, imminently) for it to make the main YTR brochure. We can have our own print as well of course, but this is a really good way to reach the YTR’s usual audience to let them know what will be going on. As a team, we already have a lot of ideas, and we need more than enough because there’s a fair chance that a lot of it we won’t be able to get due to unavailability, budget etc. Straight after the board meeting, we had a quick pub brainstorm (the best kind) and then all our initial ideas and more were typed up so we could all google and youtube everything. On the 27th September, I was in the theatre in the morning helping with a schools workshop for a lively Year 3 class who were going to watch Tutti Frutti’s Rapunzel in the afternoon (I snuck in too and it was charming) and in the evening, three of the SMT met up to talk through the ideas. On 3rd Oct we have to present them to the board to see what they think and to get some feedback. I’m sure they’ll be very honest with their opinions and I’m looking forward to it!

 

Long post I know, but writing about TakeOver will help me as well – to order my thoughts and work out what’s to be done next! Any questions or ideas about what you’d like to see, just comment!